1ASTYEAR 22,559 new books were published in Britain. More than 1,120 of these had, as their subjects, the Christian and nonChristian religions. A good proportion of that market was cornered by the four major publishers of Cti.tholic books: Burns and Oates, Slieed and Ward, Geoffrey Chapman and Darton, Longman and Todd.
The senior among these is Burns and Oates, founded in 1847, with Darton. Longman and Todd. just nine years old. as the newcomer. So far as the number of books published is concerned the battle is between Burns and Oates. with 112 books last year and 110 planned for 1968, and Geoffrey Chapman, 80 books in 1967 and roughly 100 this year.
Darton, Longman and Todd and Sheed and Ward run parallel lower down the numerical scale with 40 books apiece planned for 1968.
These four publishers do
not, of course, account for all the Catholic books issued. Several secular publishers have large religious offshoots such as Collins with Fontana Books and Hodder and Stoughton which has a large religious department.
In the same way, the four major publishers o f Catholic books have already developed or plan to develop their interests in other, non-religious fields. Already their publications cross denominational barriers in many cases, making the "Catholic publisher" label redundant.
Sheed and Ward has the youngest managing director of the four. He is Martin Redfern who. at 33, recently succeeded Neil Middleton, the son-in-law of the company's founder Frank Sheed. Redfern's company admits to a "radical" policy with the emphasis on "books for intelligent Catholics."
"Radical," says Sheed and Ward, "must. of course, mean different things at different times and an important element in this attitude today is our interest in Socialism as evidenced in the magazine Slant."
Sheed and Ward has plans to expand into politics, sociology and philosophy. It will not touch liturgy because it feels this would tie it more closely to the ecclesiastical establishment than it would want.
"We exist to further the discussion in the Church which Vatican II stimulated so much," says the company. "It is important to emphasise that this must extend beyond the Roman Catholic Church. since denominational divisions are rapidly losing any importance they had for the reading public.
"Promoting discussion is the most important thing. and this means being prepared to publish books from a variety of viewpoints if they contribute to discussion."
The most spectacular of the four is Geoffrey Chapman. Eleven years ago the firm published its first book. Today it is a small empire, employing 50 and including among its assets Ducketts Book Shop in the Strand plus selling subsidiaries in Ireland and Australia and a distribution company in England.
Chapman's is presided over by its founder Geoffrey Chapman. He is a tough Australian who has seen his sales and profits grow by 500 per cent since 1963. Up to 80 per cent of the company's output is exported — about double the average for the book trade — and there are now plans to diversify into specialist education and children's publishing.
The company clalins that apart from the Bible publishers, it is almost certainly the largest religious publisher in the Conunonwealth, half as big again as its nearest competitor.
Darton, Longman and
Todd is under the joint responsibility of three equal co-directors, Tim Darton, Michael Longman and John Todd, Of the four publishers specialising in Catholic books this company has the most diversified publishing interests. Everything, in fact. except fiction and poetry. But religious books still make up about 85 per cent of its output.
The company policy is, says Michael Longman, "to fulfil within our own particular line of activity, what we consider to be the prime function of any business operation — meeting human needs.
"In our own case we inMichael Longman terpret this as the building of a list on both religious and purely general interest topics, covering the widest possible range at all readership levels from high scholarship to the most popular, and written by authors of any or no religious political allegiance."
Darton, Longman and Todd is planning to expand across the whole of the multi-denominational and general-interest list. The main areas of expansion will be in the Biblical and educational fields.
The last of the four is Burns and Oates, which is probably the best-known. It was recently taken over by the German firm of Herder and Herder, and now follows what it calls a "radical orthodox" policy, which is to "investigate the implications of Christianity, to encourage renewal and research, to provide all sections of the Catholic community with the books they need."
The Burns and Oates catalogue covers every religious field — theology, philosophy, liturgy, catechetics, scripture, missals and prayer books, contemporary spirituality and Church history. For many years it held the market in liturgical publications but its supremacy has been challenged recently by Chapman's.
All four publishers agree that sales since the Vatican Council have increased. They also say that tastes in religious books are changing. The trend appears to be away from popular books like Kung's Council and Reunion towards a more specialist type of publication. The Bible and cartechetics are the potboilers of the future.
The famous Dutch Catechism, published by Burns and Oates, has been one of the year's best sellers and Darton, Longman and Todd has scored heavily with the Jerusalem Bible. Sheed and Ward's expectation for the year is Frank Sheed's new book Is it the Same Church?
Chapman first shot into the big time three years ago with Pope John's Journal of a Soul, selling 250,000 copies of the hard-back edition. Their hymn book Praise the Lord has sold 200,0(X) and the newest best-seller is the New People's Mass Book, selling 200,000 within 14 days of publication.
The publishers appear to have little interference from Church authorities. Burns and Oates says it has never had any trouble while Chapman's admit t o censorship problems of "an absolute minor nature."
"We have never been asked to withdraw a book and we have never had any interference with o u r publishing policies," says Geoffrey Chapman. Sheed and Ward has had occasional difficulties over Imprimaturs but this is becoming less important as Imprimaturs lose their
All four exude confidence in their company's future prospects, Sheed and Ward are embarking on a series of Scripture Discussion Outlines which represent a radically new approach to the Bible in that they aim to present the results of modern biblical scholarship to readers who can then make up their minds for themselves about the meaning of the Scriptures for today.
Darton, Longman and Todd are backing their Jerusalem Bible in a big way with plans for various editions during the next few years. Their largest project will be the reader's edition of the Bible due out this October with a 100,000 print at around £2 a shot.
They will also use the JeruAulein text for Bible Stories for Children with what they call "super drawings" by a Taize monk.
Derek Lance's secondary syllabus Eleven to Sixteen also looms large on Darton, Longman and Todd's horizon. Geoffrey Chapman is in the middle of producing a new-look altar missal. The idea is that because it has a loose-leaf cover it will never go out of date since you just replace dated material with new sheets. The cost—because it is a monster project—must be something of a record at £12.
On the non-religious front Chapman will be issuing a new series of children's books: fairy tales and adventure stories.
Burns and Oates have plans for the future, but they're not telling. Any movement on that front, they say is "for announcement in due course."